Archive for August, 2007

As we study Philippians, widely known as the “book of joy,” we’re praying specifically that God would teach us more about joy as we walk through difficult circumstances. Having completed chapter 1 in our study, I am most impressed that the things Paul takes most joy in are:

(1) that the gospel is preached regardless of his circumstances (or perhaps even because of his undesireable circumstances); and

(2) that God is working in the lives of people in whom he has invested.

Over and over again Paul takes joy in what is happening or will happen in the lives of the Philippians, the church he founded ten years earlier. Paul is saying that investing in others and seeing God work in their lives is a source of joy that transcends our circumstances. Further, the Philippians will rejoice with Paul when he is released from prison and able to be with them again. They will rejoice in what God does in Paul’s life.

The joy of Christian fellowship is the ability to rejoice in what God is doing in one another’s lives. There’s no place for competition or jealousy. There’s only place for rejoicing at the goodness of a God who works in all our lives to accomplish His purposes.

We were talking about how undoubtedly not everyone in the Philippian church would have the growth or consistency in their lives that would seem to be a reason for rejoicing. Someone in the study said that’s when we need to have vision, not sight (thanks Matthew). In other words, look for what God is doing in the lives of others, don’t just see what’s on the surface; look for what God is doing in a situation, don’t just see how a situation is affecting you. When you have God’s vision, not just earthly sight, there is always cause for rejoicing.

Hallelujah! My circumstances might be sad or scary or less than I’d like them to be in any number of ways, but God is working (remember Grace, the double-powered prayer!) and when I can’t have vision for what He’s doing in me, I can look around at what He’s doing in the lives of people I’ve invested in over the years. And I can see the goodness of a God who is always good.

Next blog: The goodness of a God who “gives us the opportunity” to suffer for Him!

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We recently studied the book of Jonah. One of the lessons from the book is that obedience (and disobedience) to the Lord impacts those around us significantly. Jonah’s obedience impacted not only his life, but the lives of the sailors on the ship to Tarshish and the Ninevites. In the Old Testament we see God working hard to instill this principle in His people by establishing community rules, community blessings and community punishments. One man sins in secret (Achan) and the army loses its battle at Ai. One woman helps the spies and she saves not only herself but also her family. In doing so Rahab became a great grandmother of David — that puts her in the direct lineage of Jesus! Her obedience has had a direct impact on my life! Now that’s far reaching affects!

Yes, Your Obedience Impacts Others
We forget this in our society. “I’m my own person” we think. “I can do what I want with my body” we hear. And we live our lives oblivious of the wear and tear on those around us — both those we know and those we don’t know.

It’s a scary thing to think that my obedience to the Lord can impact people I’ve never met and will never know. But it can and I would even go further to say that it does. Because when I only say “it can” that leaves an “out” for me to think “well, yeah, it CAN, but will it really?” Yes, it really will.

A.W. Tozer was saved in Akron, Ohio after walking past a church and hearing the preacher say “If you want to know Jesus, go to your attic and ask God to reveal Him to you.” C.S. Lewis was curious so he followed the preacher’s instructions. And He came to know Christ. Every single person who has been impacted by anyone who has been impacted by anything C.S. Lewis wrote or said owes a debt to that unnamed preacher in Akron, Ohio. Mr. No Name Preacher’s obedience to the Lord has impacted my life.

Your Struggles in Obedience Lead to Your Maturity
I have occasionally had people tell me that something I did or said really impacted them and strengthened their walk with the Lord. My typical reaction is “really?” or “who, me?” Now I’m Christian-ized enough to actually say something like “Praise God!” or “God is good, isn’t He?” But I’m thinking “are you kidding me? I didn’t do anything? I’m just struggling to live out my own walk with Him.”

But it’s in that struggle of everyday living that we rub shoulders with others and that rubbing sometimes offers encourages, sometimes sharpens edges that have become dull and sometimes rounds off overly sharp edges. “Maturity flows form the mundane,” our pastor said last week. The getting up and going to work every day, the taking care of the family, the give and take of a good marriage. The mundane.

God Has Already Figured Out All There is to Figure Out in Your Obedience
Sometimes I’m not quickly obedient because I think my obedience will have a negative impact on others around me. How wrong is that thinking? If God has told me to do something, yes I need to be sensitive to those around me, but I also need to trust that He has (or will) use my obedience to work in their lives — regardless of what it seems to me the (negative) impact of that obedience will be. Because He’s already figured out all that stuff. All I need to do is take the next step of obedience. Because it really does impact those around me…for their good as well as mine.

Comment by dansdesk
Eli starts Kindergarten today. I have this constantly nagging thought about how much my disobedience will affect him and his siblings. I so desperately want them not to repeat my sins. I once heard Rob Bell say that one way to honor your father and mother was not to repeat their sins.
Tuesday August 21, 2007 – 06:28am (EDT)

Response by Sandyhov
Big Day at the Grhamm household!
Tuesday August 21, 2007 – 10:25am (EDT)

Comment by Sandyhov
I’ve been pondering Dan’s last comment…that he once heard Rob Bell say that one way to honor your father and mother is not to repeat their sins. I’m not sure how that works…I guess it’s honoring to them because it means we were paying attention? I agree that a life well-lived honors our parents. Otherwise, I don’t quite get the connection. Anybody out there have any thots?
Thursday August 23, 2007 – 10:55pm (EDT)

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Philippians 1:9-11 records Paul’s prayer for the Philippians. Out of all the things he could have prayed for them, he prays this “that your love may abound more and more.” Notice that he didn’t pray that their holiness would abound more and more, or that their sanctification would abound more and more, or even that they would abound more and more in Christ-likeness. He prayed that their love would abound more and more.

Now granted, abounding in love is incredibly Christ-like…actually, I’d say it pretty much defines Christ-likeness. Yet what we tend to focus on in prayer and in holiness/sanctification doctrine and teaching is behaviors, not love. Yes, love involves our behavior. Paul goes on to pray that their love would abound more and more “in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best” — in other words, that our abounding love would lead us to making right choices that would make us “pure and blameless…filled with the fruit of righeousness that comes through Jesus Christ.” But I wonder if we often put the cart before the horse by trying to teach and monitor and reward behavior instead of love.

Of course, that begs the question — how do you teach, monitor and reward love? I really don’t know. I suppose for a start we ought to recognize selfless, loving acts more than Bible knowledge, preaching, teaching or worship leading. In our culture, we clearly “applaud” great knowledge, preaching, teaching and worship leading more than we “applaud” demonstrating love.

Any thots?

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